News bullets and other important items:
- Blake Countess is out with an ACL tear. You are totally surprised.
- Brandon Moore is out this week with an MCL strain. Taylor Lewan is "fine" and good to go for Air Force.
- Both Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark will play this week.
- Bennie Oosterbaan's number will be unretired this week during the game vs. Air Force.
- Courtney Avery is starting at field corner.
- Alabama did stuff with their safeties and linebackers to keep Denard from running, for what it's worth.
- Gardner wants to compete for starting QB job next season (not transcribed).
“Good afternoon. You know, we looked at the film and the good news is we have 11 more opportunities to play Michigan football. We didn’t play the way we needed to play to win the football game in a lot of different areas, from a tackling standpoint to blocking at the line of scrimmage. Those are two of the biggest factors. Didn’t run the ball as we liked to and didn’t stop the run, and that is two things that as a defense and offensive unit you have to do. We’ll learn from the mistakes. We’re going to practice today. We gave the guys off yesterday because of getting in at 5 a.m. Sunday morning, so we’ll start fixing the mistkaes, talking about the mistakes, coaching them better. That’s probably the number one issue. We have to do a better job as coaches. The other part of it is making sure that the execution is the way we would like it to be to play Michigan football.”
“Blake, that’s obviously something that you hate to see anybody get hurt. He’s a valuable team member. They have the surgery sometime, I imagine, the next two weeks. I don’t know the schedule for that. Brandon Moore will probably be out this week. It’s an MCL issue -- not torn or anything, but I think it’s stretched. We’ll see how his goes. Lewan is fine. I think it was more of a bruise, but everybody else should be okay.”
Josh Furman wasn’t at the game. Is he normally a gunner on special teams?
“No. Blake has always been our first gunner.”
What is the rationale for putting starters on special teams?
“Well we try and only put guys who are only going to play significant time on two teams. And the rationale is it’s one third of the football game, and you better have guys who are capable and guys you think are your best players. So the rationale is you’re going to win the kicking game also.”
How is Denard health-wise? Looked like he took some shots to his shoulder.
“I think his shoulder is fine. I think he got more hit in the back the one time. He’s sore like most guys are if you play, but he was good yesterday. He was in.”
Do you worry about the fact that he seems to lose a gear as the season goes on due to getting banged up?
“I didn’t think he did last year at all. Last year you look at Nebraska and Ohio, and he was pretty healthy. In fact he told me that was the healthiest he’d been at this time of year. We didn’t run him a lot. They didn’t allow us to run him a lot, how they defended him. I think that’s all part of it. He’s going to stick his foot in the ground every once in a while in those passing situations and go get yards for the team.”
What do you look for in your team and your leaders after a loss like this?
“Well, you can’t let one team beat you twice. You can’t do that. I think what you look for is number one, on the sideline during the football game, our guys were into the game. Never one time did I see the guys who were out there not being into the game, which is a good sign, because believe me I’ve been on other teams where you look and they’re not really excited about being there. These guys were excited throughout the four quarters of the football game. I think this week, we’ll learn a little bit more about our leadership. I’ve liked it to this point. This week we’ll learn a little bit more on how motivated they are. I think when you only have 11 guaranteed opportunities left, and you’re Michigan, I think you’ll be very motivated.”
Update on Fitz and Clark?
“They’re both going to play this week.”
Lots of freshmen played. James Ross was your weakside linebacker. Was that because you liked what you saw from him during fall camp or was it more because the other guys ahead of him weren’t progressing as much as you liked?
“It was more probably in how much we liked James’s progress throughout fall camp. He’s a pretty instinctive guy. Picked up everything very well for a young guy. Physical. Has a knack for getting off blocks and accelerating the hits. Things that you like to see a linebacker do. Good vision.”
Bennie Oosterbaan is being honored this week by the team. Are you going to make the choice for who wears his unretired uniform?
Did you have the chance to meet Oosterbaan before he passed away? I know it was a little before your time here …
“You know, I don’t believe so.”
Are you going to take any time to have anyone talk to the team about Oosterbaan?
“Yes, we will.”
Kovacs talked about the number of missed tackles. How do you remedy that in a week?
“Well some of it is obviously the run fits within the defense. Who’s supposed to where and you have count on that guy. For us a year ago, we were a pretty good tackling team. We’re going to tackle more in practice. We tackled a decent amount. The NCAA limits you a little more now, especially during fall camp, but we’ll tackle a decent amount this week. The only way I know how to get better at anything is to do it.”
Courtney Avery is starting opposite JT Floyd now. What did you see from him after Blake went down?
“Well, Courtney’s a seasoned veteran. I think with him and Raymon and Terry Richardson, the young freshman, all three of those guys are guys that we’ve counted on to be able to step up and play. Courtney has a lot of experience, you know. He’s played a lot of football here. He was bailin’ on the one and the double move kind of guy … we trust Courtney. I think that’s the biggest issue.”
Is Courtney the definitive starter or could Raymon Taylor pass him this week?
“I think Courtney right now, yeah, he’ll be the starter.”
Frank Clark’s offense was legally more serious than Toussaint’s. What went into the decision to allow him to play this week?
“We’ve taken a lot of -- he’s paid a lot of consequences internally.”
What are some of the positives from this game?
“You know, I think the positives are the good plays that are on there. I mean, Denard’s throw to Gallon was a big time throw. I’m highlighting that play, but there were some good plays made by guys on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The thing we struggled with is stacking those together consistently, and that’s one thing that as you watched the film, you talk about the good, but you talk about the bad -- well you can do it well, let’s do it well. You’re playing a team that traditionally is a good football team. You find out where you’re at and where you’ve got to improve.”
Why was Denard having such a hard time getting into rhythm in the passing game?
“Well, number one I don’t think -- it’s just people want to gang up on Denard. They’re making a mistake. The routes being run right, and we had some drops that we can’t have when you look at the flow of your offense and where you’re at. Protection-wise, at times was pretty solid but then we got beat a couple times, either hurried to throw or had to move out of the pocket and his feet weren’t [set] and his hips and all those.”
Is it fair to say that Devin Gardner is a receiver first and a QB second or third at this point?
“I would say that he’s a wide receiver first and a quarterback depending on where you’re at in the game or the week.”
Devin almost had two really good catches but they were incompletions due to his route running or hands. Will he improve in those aspects or the next few weeks?
“Well I think you’re right, I think a couple things: We’re very comfortable and very confident in Devin at wide receiver. I know Denard is. As he continues to play more, continues especially at a game level and game speed -- you try and do that every day at practice -- I think he learned a little more about playing wide receiver.”
Is your mindset more along the lines of “we have to get better” or is it more “we’re not going to face that kind of talent again all year”?
“No, it’s not the latter. I mean, we have to get better if we want to win the Big Ten championship and play Michigan football.”
Roundtree, Gardner, and Gallon all got a lot of targets. Is there a number one receiver right now?
“No, it’s still you have to go through a progression. Obviously there’s some calls that are a little more specific, but I think all those guys are guys who make plays, so as Denard goes through a read or if it’s somewhere that we’ve [decided] this is what we want to do in attack if we get this look -- it could be either one of them.”
Demetrius Milliner had a bunch of PBU’s and an INT in the first quarter. Was it ever a thought to avoid throwing to him?
“No, not really. You start doing that, you respect his abilities and his athleticism, but we’ve got pretty good athletes. We have guys who can do some things pretty well, so no.”
Second level blockers were getting through pretty easily to your linebackers. How do you combat that?
“Yeah, some of that’s the linebackers’ fault, and some of that’s the defensive linemen’s fault. Some of it, you have to have more friction on the offensive linemen. Sometimes linebackers maybe hesitate or their footwork’s bad and they’re a little slow getting to where they want to get to, so it’s a little combination of both.”
What were your overall impression of your defensive line?
“We didn’t get off blocks. I didn’t think we handled the point of the attack as well as we can. I think there was inconsistency with it because as you watch the tape there’s some really good plays and guys knocking guys back, and then there were some other plays where it’s not near where it needs to be.”
Re: Fitz and Frank. How do you resolve the legal discrepancy between the two cases? Can you take me through that process…
“I don’t need to take you through a process. I just resolved it.”
What has Bellomy done to take over as the backup quarterback, and when did you decide that Devin was pretty exclusively a receiver?
“Well, you’re in the middle of the game and a guy’s prepared at both positions. I think that’s a tough transition. Devin is still playing quarterback some in practice, but in the heat of the battle game-wise, and then Russell has really had a great fall camp. I’m very proud of how he’s progressed.”
What was Alabama doing to prevent Denard from running?
“Their nickel or their safeties, you could action the other way, they weren’t moving. They were waiting. It could have been the backer, depends if they dropped the safety down or the backer out, drop the safety inside -- they weren’t moving. That’s where we have to hit a couple of those throws when we do throw the ball, when we take that out of them.”
How did Elliott do in his first start at center?
“You know, he did a pretty good job. He hung in there. He was pretty physical at the line of scrimmage. I think all his gun snaps were good, and he did a nice job.”
Will you keep him there for next week?
Does the defensive scheme change much now that Countess is out?
“No. No. No. I mean, not one guy we have out there is going to change the defense in schematics that you do with it.”
What about the nickel package?
“Well it could be Thomas, it could be Courtney and bringing another corner in. We practice with Courtney a lot. Practiced with Thomas there a lot.”
Roundtree wasn’t involved in a lot of the passing game. Is there anything wrong with him physically?
“I don’t think it was anything to do with him. He’s fine. He really is in good shape.”
12 freshmen played. What are your thoughts about that?
“We traveled 17 of them. That was … interesting.”
Is that concerning?
“It is, but what are you going to do? The best player’s got to play, so you’ve got to play the best guys.”
What’s it like bringing 17 freshmen on a trip?
“Well, it’s like babysitting sometimes a little bit.”
“Well they’re just young. They got on a big boy jet and they fly down and played in a big boy stadium with a big boy team. I mean --”
A big boy hotel?
“A big boy hotel. I mean, no, there’s a lot that’s different. They did a nice job with it, but I mean there’s always … travel is something that as a coach is always a headache to some degree. You worry about how guys prepare mentally.”
With a trip like that, do they grow up a little more afterwards?
“You hope so. You remind them that this is not Sycamore high school anymore.”
Should Denard have run the ball more?
“I think there were a couple reads where maybe he should have. This kid’s a great quarterback and he’s a great athlete. He’s probably going to run at some time when he shouldn’t, and something’s going to happen. He’s a competitor.”
Will Furman be available this week?
Do you feel like the team is a little more physically beaten up after playing Alabama than after a typical game?
“No. No. I mean, we’ve got physical teams in our league. This team this week coming in here is a physical football team. That’s how they play.”
How do you go from playing Alabama to playing Air Force? Did you look at Air Force at all during fall camp?
“Well it’s always a challenge. Anytime you get into a midline series, you know, offense. It’s a fun challenge because it really speaks of playing assignment football so we have game planned them way back, did very little this fall camp, but we’ll start tonight … They’ve changed a little bit with -- they’re going no huddle now. When we were in the Mountain West with them, they still huddled and they’ve changed, run the midline and some of the pro series, that when he was with the Texans they did … so pretty unique.
Are you worried about defensive discipline against such an offense?
“Yeah I think that’s part of it. The biggest thing is you have to really have to do a great job at the line of scrimmage. The friction in the blocks, keeping your linebackers more clean, and then your rotation of quarterback, fullback, pitch, just over and over. They’ll have ways when you line up one way, they have ways to attack you. It’ll take us a little bit of time to get used to the speed because we don’t have a quarterback that can run like theirs, besides our quarterback, but he’s not going to run the scout team this week.”
Could Devin run the scout team?
“No, we couldn’t do that with him either.”
How far is Michigan from being at the level of Alabama?
“I don’t know if … I don’t have an answer for you. I know we’ve got to be more consistent. We need to be more physical. We need to … I think those two things are the big things. Those two things are the big things we have to be.”
And that’s a lot to do with recruiting. Do you look down the line and say in a couple years …
“I don’t know why we can’t be good this year.”
“I thought Will and Matt both kicked well. On the kickoffs he did a tremendous job. Will punted well. I was glad to see that because once in a while Will will try to overpunt, and I thought he’d be trying to hit the screen. I’m glad he didn’t try and do that. So I thought he punted well. I thought the special teams part of it, with the kickers and then with Dennis Norfleet, I thought he did a nice job in the returns.”
You kicked through the endzone and got touchbacks every time. Is that the ideal strategy?
“I think so. You give it to them at the 25.”
How much of a role can you see for Norfleet besides special teams?
“You know I think he’s a pretty good guy with the ball in his hands. How you get it in his hands is really what we have to look at.”
Can you envision doing more with him this year?
What are your thoughts on the new helmet rule?
“Um, I really don’t know if -- I know the intent. I don’t if it’s right, you know? They can’t see it all. It’s a judgment call. An opponent takes the helmet off, they don’t call every hand to the face, so I don’t know. I think it’s going to be interesting to see. The intent is very good, but I don’t know how you manage it.”
Taylor Lewan had a few penalties …
“I think he had probably had one penalty. I thought he played well. I thought he played with a lot of heart and toughness and things you like players to play with.”
How did Jake Ryan play?
“Jake played well. Jake is always going to play -- he may not step exactly like you teach him all the time, but he’s going to end up in the right place.”
How hard is it for a guy like Devin to voluntarily make the switch from QB to WR?
“Well I imagine it was a tough decision, but I think he’s a competitor who wants to play. I think he knew Denard was our quarterback. And I think the other part of it, he’s helping the football team, and that’s probably as big as anything.”
With Brandon Moore out, is Kwiatkowski going to be the guy?
“Well it’s going to be Kwiatikowski, it’ll be AJ Williams, it will be Devin Funchess.”
Probably about the same amount?